I have previously blogged about a retired Lt Colonel who goes by the call sign RainMan, and how long after his retirement he still finds the time to mentor the young hopeful warrior wannabes around internet forums. I think it's great to help the hopefuls and those who currently serve, and to share what you have learned, and to provide wisdom and insight to help make others better military officers. It's a good conversation to be had. Of course, adding to that conversation requires you having something worth sharing.
RainMan certainly shares a lot. He shares his view that women ruined the Air Force, that the oath of office we are required to take is bullshit, that we shouldn't serve out of principle, and he equates risk for the national defense in combat with risk to one's own personal ambitious career progression (he is fond of using the phrase "notch the threat" when discussing queepy self serving career decisions).
While he shares his views on a forum that is known to question the kool-aid and check-the-box requirements of the service (and the leadership that prizes such externalities over common sense), still RainMan enjoys some kind of internet social status while being the poster child for exactly what plagues our service. He enjoys this online status because 1) he has actual combat experience and 2) the hopefuls are those who rightfully aspire to also one day defend their nation in combat and because 3) larger America has a real morality crisis, and so his audience is receptive to a "hero" that encourages cowardice. So many who talk about what is wrong with our service do so on the "bro level" behind closed doors, and when those doors open, they silence their criticisms and feedback and do their part to further the problem. Such people are considered "those who get it" sadly, because they talk the talk when talking isn't risky, yet don't walk the walk.
Combat experience is RainMan's ace of spades. But combat is just one small part of being an officer and it's a very poor indicator of character or value. I've flown a great many combat missions myself, killed many of the enemy, been shot at, and in all my combat experience I have never once witnessed anybody who wasn't eager to get into the fight. I'm glad to know that our military is producing those thirsting to protect our brothers on the ground, and to remove those on the battlefield who would do our nation harm. But combat experience doesn't require a person to be principled, or particularly intelligent, or to have any real character. Armies around the world have been populated with riff raff that fixed bayonets and bravely charged, and even the fascist Adolf Hitler acted with courage in World War I and was awarded two Iron Cross decorations for his combat contributions (he was shot in the leg in one incident, and he suffered wounds after a chemical attack in another). Again, combat is a very poor indicator of the quality of a man and his leadership potential. Principle, character, and intelligence are required for those who wish to help lead America's military outside of combat, and to assist in preparing it to be ready to take on our enemies in the future, and to provide unfettered and honest information to our elected representatives despite corporate and other non-public interests. This is where RainMan fails miserably. It can also be argued that this character disease is the culprit behind the serious challenges our service faces today, as recent articles concerning scandal after scandal from leadership indicate. Unfortunately, RainMan spends considerable time trying to instill and bolster the same cowardice and lack of character in those who serve today, and in those who hope to serve tomorrow, encouraging them to drink the same cowardly saltwater that leaves our service thirsty. He finds a receptive and parched audience.
RainMan is the Big Johnson of BaseOps. He is a caricature like the tiny man from the 80s t-shirt line, working to create an image of "cool" - he has a motorcycle, he uses fighter pilot lingo in every day communication, he insults women (including young cadets), refers to himself as an "Iron Ass Reagan Baby," tells all who will listen that he was a real deal football player growing up, talks tough and touts his combat time. Beyond that, he sprinkles his unsupported conclusions around as though they are infallible, despite his frequent lack of support or evidence, and works overtime from his retirement home to justify his shortcomings with youngsters who will agree or worship him. He finds an unprincipled audience eager to listen, and the cultural reasons are far greater than any one particular online military forum. Reference this forum poll where the majority of respondents admit that had they been ordered to fix bayonets and herd 70,000 American citizens onto trains to send them off to concentration camps (as was done in the 1940s by order of President Roosevelt), that they would have done so despite their American neighbors having not been charged or tried for any crime. The cowardice of the clay makes RainMan's work to sculpt our service with unprincipled men of inferior character, quite easy.
I will give him credit for his combat time. It's good that he role models hanging it out for America. But it bears repeating that combat is a small contribution, and miniscule compared to the negative contributions of RainMan's cyber role modeling. Like the Big Johnson caricatures, the stick figure image of the tough guy fighter pilot who's "been there and done that" cannot sufficiently disguise the fact that underneath his bravado, RainMan is actually a small pale little kid trying to look cool. The courage checkbox doesn't change that fact.
RainMan dazzles his audience with his unremarkable contributions with one hand, and with the other hand encourages officers to look out for their career over doing what is right for the service or the country. He suggests that officers "play the game" (because a nuclear equipped profession is a game, right?), that airmen never stand up for principle, and he provides a continuous reminder that the oath to the Constitution is just some silly muttering of words that officers should ignore. He purports to be a fan of Robin Olds, and while it is true that RainMan has mastered the art of digital swagger from his computer keyboard to impress the youngsters long after his retirement, it's also true that RainMan hasn't yet figured out what made General Olds great. Character. Instead, RainMan treats military service and the role of a military officer as if he's back playing football. He's on the team and that is all that anybody needs to know. Thinking and character not required. Just run the ball where you're told (even if it's into your own end zone) and enjoy the after party.
My contempt for RainMan and his efforts to weaken our service aside, I should be gentle with RainMan. He remains my number one fan, even after having me banned from the BaseOps.Net forum because he couldn't handle the feedback I gave him there. He expected the same adoration and idolization that he typically gets from the youngsters and the less accomplished pilots, and so he didn't appreciate my feedback. He has been smarting ever since, and never passes up an opportunity to make some ridiculous claims about your humble blogger. I think I touched a nerve. Yet even after I was banned from the BaseOps conversation (after they had read my blog and invited me over there to discuss), they still love to talk about "PYB.edu." Since my banning, they have referred to your humble blogger dozens of times, with RainMan himself bringing up my blog in the majority of those instances. One moment RainMan is telling others to stop talking about this blog, and in the next he's the one bringing it up. It's a love hate relationship, and the mark of a real fan. It makes me all warm inside.
So, thanks for being my number one fan, RainMan.